The Sparks City Council has reversed its vote on the "Lazy 8" Casino to avoid a lawsuit...and now it is facing one of its own, from the state.
During a closed meeting last week, the council did an about-face...okaying Harvey Whittemore's Pyramid Highway project...after he filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit, following the council's rejection of the casino the week before.
Now, the Nevada Attorney General's Office says it will sue the council, unless the member take a public vote on the settlement.
However, that suit won't address any of the issues that have surrounded this project, whether or not it should be built. Rather, it focuses on how the council has handled the settlement of the dispute.
The council has wrestled with this issue for months, most of that time under the threat of lawsuit...and they're not out of the woods yet. Back in August, the council acknowledged protests from area residents voted 3 to 2 to deny the project on the Pyramid Highway. It did so in spite of those threats, and in spite of the advice from the city attorney's office that the city had given the developers the right to build a casino anywhere in the city of Sparks 12 years earlier.
As promised, Red Hawk Land Company filed suit a few days later. In the week that followed, attorneys for both sides negotiated a settlement announced by City Attorney Chet Adams.
"I believe that a court order requiring the city to approve the resort complex, including the casino, is appropriate," Adams says.
And it did so with Councilwoman Judy Moss changing her no vote to yes, but that vote took place in a closed, unposted meeting...and that, Attorney General George Chanos says, is against the law.
"What they should have done," Chanos says, "is they should have had their meeting with their attorney in closed session, be advised of what the settlement terms were, opened up the meeting to the public in a properly noticed meeting, where the public could participated and provide public comment and vote in public."
The city attorney declined comment on Thursday, but he's been quoted elsewhere as indicating the meeting was a protected attorney client session...and he's quoted as saying "you've seen how my clients are running and hiding to save their political futures. If we go before a city council now who knows that these people will vote for."
"It's not the city attorney's job to corral his city council members into behaving in a certain way," Chanos explains. "It's his responsibility to advise them on the law properly and in this context, I believe that was not done."
Chanos says he believes the settlement vote is now void, but he says there's a simple fix: the council should meet in an open, noticed meeting, allowing public input and vote again. And in a late development, that may yet happen. A spokesperson for the Attorney General told News Channel 8 a while back, that the city attorney approached their office and talks are underway aimed at settling this dispute. The settlement would involve the attorney general holding off on his lawsuit and the city scheduling a re-vote....this time, in the public's eye.